Milan’s Trams

My wife and I went to Italy in September 2022 with her parents. I was a little nervous about traveling with my in-laws for 19 days. Don’t get me wrong – I like my father-in-law and mother-in-law. They are good people. It’s just a challenge being together with your in-laws for such a long time.

It turned out to be just fine. We set the expectations right up front that we would travel together, but in each city we were mostly “on our own”. My wife and I would do what we wanted, and they would do what they wanted. That worked out well.

One of the cities we visited was Milan. You may recall that my wife and I went to Italy in 2018 but we did not visit Milan on that trip. I didn’t know much about Milan, other than its fantastic cathedral and its reputation for fashion. We are definitely not “fashionistas” so I was concerned that we wouldn’t have much to do in our 2 1/2 days in the city.

One thing I did a lot in Milan was photograph trams!

I had no idea Milan had so many trams, and so many types of trams. Let’s have a look at some of the trams I photographed.

(I’m calling them trams… you can call them streetcars, light rail vehicles (LRVs), whatever!)

Colour photograph of the Santa Maria della Grazie church in Milan on a rainy day with a tram passing by.

The photo above shows a tram passing the Santa Maria delle Grazie on a rainy morning. The church itself was pretty nice but the refectory attached to it houses Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper masterpiece. It was amazing. I was expecting it to be a bit of a let-down, like when people see that the famous Mona Lisa painting is actually quite small.

The Last Supper occupies one end of a large hall, and covers the end wall. It’s 4.6m high and 8.8m wide (15′ high and 28.8′ wide). It’s… amazing.

Colour photograph of people viewing and photographing The Last Supper painting in Milan.

Anyway. Back to trams. While we were waiting for our turn to see The Last Supper, I photographed passing trams. The tram above is #4918, one of the fifty articulated Series 4900 trams made by Fiat Ferroviaria in 1976. These 3-section trams can accommodate 60 seated passengers and 210 standees. In theory they can go 60 km/hr but I doubt they approach that in regular service.

Head on view of a white and yellow tram with rounded edges, curving on track laid in cobblestones.

I loved these rounded-looking trams. They look like what someone in the 1970s would call “space age”, although I believe they were built in the early 2000s. They are Sirio trams, built by Hitachi Italy (or its predecessor, AnsaldoBreda). The 7500 and 7600 series are called Siriettos (“little Sirius”) and can carry 50 seated and 141 standing passengers in their 5 sections. The 7100 series Sirio tram has seven sections and a capacity of 285 passengers in total.

Here we have two quite different tram types. The one on the left, #4924, is another in the 4900 series I talked about already. The other one, #1530, is very much like a Peter Witt streetcar that was common in North America. 502 of them were between 1927 and 1930, and more than a hundred are still in service in Milan. Many were sold to San Francisco and San Jose, or scrapped.

These were definitely my favourite type of tram in Milan.

One day we were shopping along the Corso Buenos Aires, a very long street filled with shops. I spotted a pair of tram lines (here) running perpendicular to the street that seemed particularly picturesque. I set up to wait for a tram to come by. As luck would have it, there were two, headed in opposite directions, and they were both the Peter Witt style!

Two yellow and white trams pass each other under a canopy of trees in Milan

I fired off a series of photos and managed to capture the “meet” as the trams passed. I was quite pleased with that.

Colour photograph of a long red streetcar going around a corner in Milan.

This is another 4900-series streetcar. I included this photo to show its length. This wasn’t far from our hotel.

To fulfil my passion for night photography, I went out and captured a few trams at night to and from the cathedral.

Here’s one of those 7500/7600 series trams passing in front of the awesome duomo (cathedral).

The next photo is my favourite.

Night photograph showing a classic tram stopped on a quiet city street, with a lit sign spelling HOTEL RIO on the right and a lit restaurant on the left.

This isn’t far from the Duomo. We ate lunch at the restaurant on the left one day and I kept photographing trams as they went by!

I saw the potential of this quiet street with the lit signs and the lighting, and waited for the right tram to come along. I had my camera on its tripod so I took a long exposure as the tram stopped to disembark a few passengers.

Colour photograph at night showing a yellow tram speeding through a city intersection.

This is #1611, another Peter Witt style tram.

I took about 330 photos of trams in Milan. That’s a little insane but I couldn’t help myself. Thank goodness it wasn’t film…

I’ll leave you with this accidental selfie I recorded when doing some long exposure photography near the cathedral.

More on Italy

You can read all about our 2018 Italian trip and all the trains and trams we saw and rode. So many!

2 thoughts on “Milan’s Trams”

  1. I prefer the Peter Witt style also, they look like they could run on the TTC. But your shot in front of the Hotel Rio is definately a winner.

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